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Pandora and Facebook get social music right

Pandora's integration with Facebook lets you know what your friends have been listening to, but it doesn't pop up annoying alerts or require you to join a new social network.

Facebook made several important announcements on Wednesday. I'll leave the details to others--this is a music-focused blog, after all--but I think that Facebook's leaders have positioned it as the infrastructure provider of the emerging social Web and potentially as the first Internet company to challenge Google's dominance in online advertising.

Basically, now that everybody (400 million users) is on Facebook, the company is trying to extend itself to the rest of the Web, allowing you to broadcast your likes and dislikes from other sites back to your Facebook friends, and allowing your Facebook social graph to extend beyond the confines of the site. (Robert Scoble has a good roundup of the implications.)

See what your Facebook friends have been listening to on Pandora. (Some portions of this image have been obscured for privacy reasons.)

A good example of how this could play out can be found in a partnership with Pandora, the popular personalized radio service. Today, if you go to Pandora and select "Friends' Music," it will ask if you want to connect your Pandora and Facebook profiles. Enter your Facebook username and password, and suddenly, all your Facebook friends will be imported into the Pandora app. You can see what they've been listening to on Pandora recently, and click on embedded links to import their stations into your own Pandora player.

This is far better than other efforts to capture the social nature of music listening and recommendations. First, unlike the case with notification music apps like Serenade and Cardinal, I'm not posting to my profile or spamming my Facebook friends every time I change stations or hear a new song. (If I want to do that, I can still hit the "share" button on the Pandora radio player.) More importantly, Pandora now uses the social network I've already built and that I most frequently use--I don't have to go through the hassle of trying to create a new one from scratch, as Microsoft's Zune social system asked me to do.

Even cooler: music sites, such as record labels or band sites, will be able to place a new type of Facebook "like" button next to songs on their sites. As users select songs they like, this data will be collected by Facebook and shared with Pandora, so even if you've never logged into Pandora, it will immediately begin playing music it thinks you like, based on your activities around the Web--not just your listening habits on Pandora.

A brief word about privacy, because I know that it'll come up: Yes, the privacy implications could be alarming, especially when this kind of integration is applied to other types of services. But for music? The value of getting new recommendations from friends whose musical taste I trust outweighs any embarrassment I might feel from broadcasting my affection for, say, Rush and Faith No More.